Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Since Monday, dozens of religious leaders from diverse faiths have been gathering at the University of Winnipeg at the G8 Religious Leaders Summit. Besides Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders, there are also representatives from Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Baha’i, and Shinto traditions as well as Indigenous Spirituality. It is the first time Canada has hosted the Summit which, for the past five years, has been organized to complement the meeting of G8 political leaders. G8 leaders are meeting in Huntsville, Ontario, later this week.
A significant part of each Interfaith Leaders Summit is the writing of a statement, which underscores the nature of the G8 commitments to the Millenium Development Goals and other processes that move toward equality and justic for all children, women and men. The working statement, which is undergoing discussion and will be different at the end of the summit, can be read by clicking on: “A Time For Inspired Leadership and Action“.
I attended the summit yesterday as an observer, and was impressed and encouraged by the sense of importance and urgency that underscored the 1 1/2 hour discussion on climate change. The statement reads, in part:
Climate change has become an urgent and felt manifestation of our collective abuse of the very environment that gives us life. We see the consequences in melting icecaps and rising sea levels, lost habitats for animal and plant species, and erratic weather episodes that threaten the lives of millions of people.
As scientists discover new accelerators of climate change and note the compression of time available to avoid irreparable damage, it is clear that bold action is needed now. We need to move beyond short-term political interests and arguments over who pays. In our indivisible planet we all pay – and future generations will pay dearly – if we continue to delay decisive action now.
Around the table there were calls for courageous and concrete action. Katherine Whitecloud, an aboriginal leader from the Dakota First Nation and a descendant of Chief Sitting Bull, spoke powerful words to the gathered religious leaders. She reminded the room that the rivers are the veins of Mother Earth, and they are now poisoned.
“My grandmother said, someday we will eat our children. That time has come. We are foolishly and arrogantly raping Mother Earth so She has nothing left to offer…Mother Earth is crying, attempting to rid herself of all the toxins we have poured into her [author’s note: it has been extremely wet here on the prairies recently]. You cannot wait for your president, or another elected official, to do something about this. You have to decide what YOU are going to do for your children, for your grandchildren.”
Katherine then went on to ask the assembled group about the meaning of sacrifice, because that is what is going to be needed at this point in human history.
“Sacrifice is going without so someone else will live…Now is the time for courageous and concrete action. In your heart, you know what that means.”
Katherine demonstrated the kind of bold and courageous leadership that we needed to steer through this crisis, and make the dramatic changes necessary so that our children aren’t consumed. What is each of us prepared to do?